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The LSU Law School building on Tuesday, August 20, 2019.

LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center has the second-highest ranking among law schools in Louisiana, but trails the rest of the Southeastern Conference, according to the influential U.S. News & World Report.

LSU came in at 109 out of the nation’s 193 law schools fully accredited by the American Bar Association. Of the dozen SEC universities that have law schools, LSU’s ranks the lowest in the U.S. News analysis.

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law ranked at 144 and the Tulane University School of Law placed at 60 in this year’s U.S. News rankings that purports to compare the quality of education at the nation’s law schools. The Southern University Law Center remains unranked among the last 50 schools because U.S. News decided against reporting individual scores and numerical ranks for the bottom quarter of the law schools.

Though academicians and administrators downplay the rankings, the U.S. News analysis does play a big role in recruiting students and providing braggadocio within the legal community.

But the big issue in this year’s ranking is altered methodology for calculating the overall scores that are used to create the rankings. U.S. News assigns values to a boatload of statistics reviewed each year, such as the kind of job graduates receive and how long it takes them to find employment, the debt the students carry with them upon leaving law school, and the amount funding law schools spend on libraries, clinics and such. Changes in the weights given the statistics led to wild fluctuations in the rankings and a cacophony of complaints from law schools. Nearly a fourth of the law schools moved five places or more – a couple dozen by double digits – from last year’s rankings.

“The new methodology weighs new factors not directly related to the quality of education, such as the percentage of students who borrow to finance their education and the hours and number of seats in the library,” said Michael Strecker, director of Tulane University public relations office.

LSU Interim Dean Lee Ann Wheelis Lockridge says that while important, the U.S. News rankings isn’t the only criteria to consider. LSU is among the nation’s Top 40 when it comes to passing the bar examination that is necessary for a lawyer practice. About nine of 10 LSU law students find full-time employment within 10 months of graduating, she said.

“We have routinely been included on ‘best value’ law school rankings and lists for the balance between costs and outcomes that we provide students,” Lockridge said. “While we will not sacrifice our core mission and values as a public institution that is devoted to educating our students and preparing them for successful careers, we certainly understand that rankings such as those from U.S. News influence how we are perceived by students and their potential employers.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards graduated from LSU Law School as did Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

Though unranked at the bottom of the list, Southern University trained 18 current state lawmakers who are lawyers, the same number as Tulane, LSU, and Loyola New Orleans combined.

“Unfortunately, in my opinion, the U.S. News and World Report rankings are overrated and biased against schools of access and opportunity,” said Southern Law Chancellor John Pierre. “The Southern University Law Center continuously provides a transformative and affordable legal education to underrepresented student populations, including women, first generation law students and low-and-moderate income students, so they can have a transformational career as attorneys and legal professionals.”

“I would not recommend that any law student make a decision about where to attend law school based on these rankings. There is so much more to know,” said Dean Madeleine Landrieu at Loyola New Orleans. “Our specialty programs and clinics fared well, our overall score only dropped one point, and our major component data – which  considers selectivity factors such as grade point averages, Law School Admission Test, (called LSAT), and employment after graduation – remained nearly the same.”

Attorney General Jeff Landry and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon received their juris doctorates from Loyola’s law school.

Though the changes in the methodology caused Louisiana institutions to slip in the rankings, truth is this state’s law schools have never found top spots on the U.S. News list.

The only SEC law schools that ranked in the top 25 are at Vanderbilt, the University of Florida and the University of Alabama. But most scored higher than Tulane, which came in at No. 60 and tied with the law schools at the universities in Missouri and Tennessee. The law schools at Yale, Stanford, Harvard and Columbia universities are the highest ranked on the U.S. News report.

Rankings for SEC and Louisiana law schools 

16. Vanderbilt University in Nashville

  • $62,230 (full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 167

21. University of Florida in Gainesville

  • $21,803 (in-state, full-time)
  • $38,039 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 165

25. University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa

  • $23,920 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $43,370 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 164

27. University of Georgia in Athens

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  • $19,894 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $38,652 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 165

53. Texas A&M University in Fort Worth

  • $31,900 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $47,304 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 160

60 (tied). Tulane University in New Orleans*

  • $60,720 (full-time tuition)
  • Median LSAT Score: 159

60 (tied). University of Missouri in Columbia

  • $22,060 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $40,732 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 158

60 (tied). University of Tennessee – Knoxville

  • $20,168 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $38,842 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 159

81. University of Kentucky in Lexington

  • $24,969 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $51,360 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 155

96. University of Arkansas – Fayetteville

  • $16,604 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $37,239 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 155

96. University of South Carolina in Columbia

  • $24,472 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $55,480 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 156

98. University of Mississippi in Oxford

  • $16,870 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $36,935 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 156

109. Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge

  • $23,673 (in-state, full-time tuition)
  • $39,113 (out-of-state, full-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 155

144. Loyola University New Orleans*

  • $48,778 (full-time tuition)
  • $36,032 (part-time)
  • Median LSAT Score: 151

*NOT members of the Southeastern Conference

Southern University* had no specifics listed in the U.S. News rankings

Source: U.S. News & World Report


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.